Cheap Buzz: Dave and Buster's


Left to right: TNTea, Grey Goose Martini, Perfect Margarita [Photos: John Edwards]

You've been to Dave and Buster's, right? That PG-rated spot for adults that promises fun for the whole family? Though they're effectively an adult Chuckie Cheese, Dave and Buster's takes a page from the Vegas playbook: they serve booze. I headed to the closest D&B's to see how the cocktails fared.

Typically, the chain restaurants that I visit serve up watered down punches full of sugar and artificial coloring. They don't have bitters, they don't muddle much, and they count on America wanting a sweet, diluted elixir to make a little bit of hooch go down.

But the drinks at Dave and Buster's stand out a bit from the pack: first of all, they're mighty strong.

The TNTea, a mixture of Absolut vodka, Tanqueray gin, Bacardi Rum, Grand Marnier, with sweet and sour mix and Coca-Cola may sound like a nightmare, but this intensely boozy concoction was actually not as insanely sweet as I feared. It's not my new go-to order or anything, but it was better than I expected, like a Coke Lemon with a sailor-approved amount of alcohol. Drinkability: Sure, if you're raring to start your bender off aggressively. The sweetness hides the heavy pour.

Their Perfect Patron Margarita was refreshingly tart but overly salted. Though the booze is Patron Silver Tequila and Patron Citronge, it's dominated by what tastes like any old generic fraternity-party margarita mix. It's a pretty strong cocktail, but it doesn't beat the Applebee's version. Drinkability: Meh.

What if you step away from the sour mix and order a grown up drink? I tried a Grey Goose Martini to see how it compared to the one at Ruby Tuesday, my all-time #1 Cheap Buzz spot. The Dave and Buster's version was strong, but it failed on the vermouth front. Hey Buster! Hey Dave! Bad vermouth is what makes people hate martinis! Drinkability: Not awful, but not quite Ruby-level.

If you see a drink called a "Walk the Plank", you have to order it, and not just because you've already seen the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie twice. Made with Captain Morgan spiced rum, Malibu coconut rum, peach schnapps, and a slew of fruit juices, it was pink and sweet, but not offensively so. Drinkability: Tastes like a vacation. And I like vacations!


Left to right: Lynchburg Lemonade, Snow Cone, and The Shizzle.

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The Snow Cone starts with Watermelon Pucker, Malibu coconut rum, cherry vodka, blue curacao, and Sprite, plus pomegranate syrup. With all of the sweet syrup, it tastes like a boozy Slush Puppie, in a good way. You know how sometimes a popsicle just tastes purple? This tasted blue. Drinkability: Dangerously drinkable. If you find yourself with a brainfreeze, slow down.

One warning: no matter how much you like the name, don't order The Shizzle. It's a bit of Malibu Coconut and some Malibu Pineapple, plus Stolichnaya Vanil and pineapple juice. I expected it to be an island-style sugarfest. Instead, it tasted like sucralose mixed with aluminum foil. Drinkability: Terrible.

My head was spinning by the time I reached the Lynchburg Lemonade. But this drink doesn't take much higher-level thinking: it's a pretty straightforward Jack Daniels and lemonade mix (mostly Jack Daniels, to be honest.) Drinkability: Recommended.

I'll admit it. My enthusiasm about the drinkability of Dave and Buster's cocktails steadily increased in parallel with my BAC. These drinks are first and foremost vehicles for loads of alcohol. At $10-13 apiece at my local branch, they cost basically the same as weaker drinks at the other big chains (these are NYC prices, they're probably cheaper near you). So if you're looking for strong drinks, these will get the job done.

In casinos, they give you free drinks so that you get loopy and bet $100 on Red 32. Dave and Buster's isn't much different—they pour it heavy so you keep pouring money into those games.